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The internet is freaking over this mom’s hospital bill for the wrong reasons

Claire Zulkey wonders when she'll ever get used to the idea that she has two boys. She is the author of two books for young people, An Off Year and Best Frenemies. She and her filmmaker husband live in Evanston, IL. You can find out more...

There is a bigger question behind the headline of the family charged for skin-to-skin contact with their baby

“A woman had a baby. Then her hospital charged her $39.35 to hold it.” That’s the headline from an article Vox posted yesterday about a bill a new family received, ostensibly charging them for the act of skin-to-skin contact after their baby was born. The internet, predictably, howled in outrage.

Skin-to-skin contact is an increasingly popular bonding measure between mothers and newborn children, although it’s by no means mandatory in the case of babies or mothers that need immediate medical care after birth. If I’m being brutally honest, I did not receive skin-to-skin with my first son, who needed some observation after birth, and I did with my second, and I actually rather preferred receiving the cleaned-up baby. Of course, I bonded much faster with the second one while I think the first is in boarding school or something. I haven’t seen him in months. (Kidding.)

More: 10 baby bonding tips

Regardless, because of the way the internet works, the couple’s story is being reported in a way that shows a cruel money-grubbing hospital will steal money out of your pockets in exchange for priceless bonding time. Can’t afford skin-to-skin? Then sorry, you cannot bond with your newborn, who will probably grow up to resent you for it.

Look again though: In reality, the couple was being charged for an extra nurse who needed to be on the premises to facilitate skin-to-skin. The story is not about a family getting charged for skin-to-skin — what lies beneath is a more interesting tale of how hospitals charge. That is a much bigger mystery, one that affects many more people, and one that can’t be revealed in quick clickbaity headlines.

More: When you should dispute your OB bills

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